Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, IBFAN, UNICEF, the WHO Global Strategies on Infant Feeding, and most paediatric societies around the world recommend exclusive breastfeeding to about six months.
You should start your baby on solids when he or she shows signs of interest and readiness – this is often around 6 months, but sometimes it’s a little bit earlier or a little bit later. Follow your baby’s cues instead of the calendar. By five or six months of age, most babies will be trying to grab food from your plate. When the baby is starting to reach for food, grabs it and tries to put it into his or her mouth, this seems a reasonable time to start letting him or her eat.
When a baby seems to be hungry and/or weight gain is not continuing at the desired rate it may be reasonable to start solids as early as four months of age. Consider solids only after you have done everything possible to improve the breastfeeding so that the baby gets more breastmilk. See the information sheets “Late Onset Decreased Milk Supply or Flow” and “Protocol to Increase Breastmilk Intake”.
Giving breastmilk in a bottle is not recommended in these situations because the baby who is not satisfied completely at the breast may start to take more and more from the bottle, and end up refusing to take the breast completely. There is also no advantage to starting infant formula – if the baby is able to eat solids, they are a much better choice!
If the baby has been supplemented with infant formula from earlier on in his or her life, the supplement can be gradually replaced with solids starting around 4 months of age. Formula can even be mixed into solid foods to reduce the need for bottles and/or lactation aids.
Note: Starting solids at four months of age when baby is exclusively breastfed and things are going well, is not recommended.
Around 6 months of age:
Around 4 months of age:
If breastfeeding and the introduction of solid foods both are going well, it probably does not matter much. Also, there is no reason that a baby needs both breast and solids every time he eats.
If your baby tends to be fussy at the breast, sometimes offering some solids before the breast can be helpful.
Get help if the baby is consistently refusing solids after 6 months.
The information presented here is general and not a substitute for personalized treatment from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or other qualified medical professionals.
This information sheet may be copied and distributed without further permission on the condition that it is not used in any context that violates the WHO International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (1981) and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions. If you don’t know what this means, please email us to ask!
©IBC, updated November 2016
Questions or concerns? Email Dr. Jack Newman (read the page carefully, and answer the listed questions).
Make an appointment at the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic.